Devolution in Kansas

Science: Elected school board's banishment of evolution from curriculum penalizes students.

August 14, 1999

THE STATE board of education in Kansas jeopardized the future of that state's children by censoring what they learn about the past. This will curtail their education and harm their opportunities as adults.

If allowed to stand, the new curriculum would discourage parents of young children from moving to Kansas. The board could not have created a worse impediment to economic development.

The board hired a panel of scientists to draw up a state curriculum required of all local schools. Three board members then rewrote the recommendation to banish evolution from the requirement, inhibiting the study of biology and harming that of geology. The elected board adopted the changes, 6-4.

This does not forbid scientific teaching of evolution. It discourages it, since local school boards use their resources to teach what the state curriculum requires.

This is a victory for people whose religious beliefs in biblical creation reject science, which some disguise by proffering a pseudo-science called creationism. Most believing Jews and Christians, however, reconcile science with the Bible.

What just happened in Kansas is no quaint nostalgia for the 1925 trial of John T. Scopes for teaching evolution in Tennessee. This is today. The Kansas curriculum is serious and harmful.

The heads of Kansas' six public universities warned that this would "set Kansas back a century," propelling good teachers out of state. Kansas' Republican governor, Bill Graves, said: "This is a terrible, tragic, embarrassing solution to a problem that did not exist."

Governor Graves is threatening legislation to abolish the board. Elected school boards are an endangered species, adapting poorly to their environment. This one has damaged Kansas' ability to survive in the competitive millennium that is almost upon it.

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